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Why Loyal Customers Write Bad Reviews
For Products they NEVER Purchased
martinibuster




msg:4593230
 1:38 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

NYTimes reports on an academic study [bits.blogs.nytimes.com] of an ecommerce sites reviews revealed that many of the registered customers, actual customers, were writing negative reviews online for products they had never purchased.

• I should have read all of the negative reviews before ordering. Please bring back the old style.

• I ordered this item over your Web site. Why is it that good designs are always changed? Please go back to the original.

• I am on a “Made in the USA” campaign and so am returning this item. Please stop importing.

The cranky customers are acting, the study concludes, as “self-appointed brand managers.” To put it another way, they are venting.

...What seems to be the voice of the masses is the voice of a self-appointed few, magnified and distorted.

 

RhinoFish




msg:4593254
 2:43 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

If a celeb endorses something for money, many people tend dismiss it when they see the disclosure. But they've staked their reputation on a product or service.

Reviewers, most often anonymous, could have a zillion reasons to lean one way or the other, and they've usually got nothing at risk with their position.

I've wondered if reviews of reviewers would solve the problem, but then I get stuck in an infinite loop death spiral towards the meaningless...

phranque




msg:4593257
 2:52 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

according to the study, the fake reviews (positive and negative combined) represent <5% of all reviews.
in my opinion, that's barely noteworthy.

also, in my opinion, the decision not to purchase or repeat purchase a product is worthy of review.

lucy24




msg:4593278
 4:03 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

What seems to be the voice of the masses is the voice of a self-appointed few

And the New York Times thinks this is news? Voluntary reviews are ALWAYS the voice of a few. And of course they're self-appointed; did the Times think they're elected? Or that the vendor randomly picked recipients to get the product version that says "If you don't post a review within {time period}, this item will self-destruct"?

Insert boilerplate about how the Founding Fathers were self-appointed while {dictator's name here} was elected

martinibuster




msg:4593282
 4:18 pm on Jul 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think the point of the article was the conclusion that contrary to common perception, the sources of the fake reviews came from actual customers, not from competitors.

The number of fake reviews was just over 5% of all reviews. Does that number seem high or low to you?

I apologize, I was in a hurry to walk my dog and should have read the study first because there are some pretty interesting things in it. The actual study is posted here [web.mit.edu].

In Exhibit 1 we provide an example of a review that exhibits linguistic characteristics associated with deception. Perhaps the strongest cue associated with deception is the number of words: deceptive messages tend to be longer. They are also more likely to contain details unrelated to the product (“I also remember when everything was made in America”) and these details often mention the reviewer’s family (“My dad used to take me when we were young to the original store down the hill”). Other indicators of deception include the use of shorter words and multiple exclamation points.

dpd1




msg:4593441
 3:38 am on Jul 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Not a big surprise I guess. There has always been a culture of people out there, who seem to derive pleasure from trying to do harm to a business. Who knows why. They're having a bad day? It makes them feel powerful? Political nuts trying to make a statement (ie: The Made in US one)?

I guess what it comes down to is, how much weight do others assign to those negatives? It would be nice if somebody did a study on that. I personally fear that percentage-wise, more weight is placed on negatives than positives. I have numerous times seen people post on forums, asking if an ebay seller should be trusted, because they have a negative. Never mind that they have 1000 positives. That doesn't seem to factor into some people's thought process.

I recently was on a forum where a guy for over a week, has been whining about how so and so dealer, wanted too much for shipping on an item. When numerous people told him to just email them and ask if the shipping amount is a mistake, he ignores it and just continues his rant about how terrible they are for trying to charge that much. Bottom line, some people just enjoy complaining.

Planet13




msg:4594325
 6:50 pm on Jul 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

I am not sure if this directly relates but...

Have you ever gone to a movie review site and seen lots of user ratings for movie that have not yet been released?

Mike_Feury




msg:4594842
 3:48 pm on Jul 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

"I've wondered if reviews of reviewers would solve the problem"
Amazon thinks so: "Was this review helpful to you?"

"lots of user ratings for movie that have not yet been released"
Probably pirated from studio copies--people enthusiastic enough to review will want to get their hands on the product earliest.

Planet13




msg:4595463
 7:39 pm on Jul 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

"Probably pirated from studio copies--people enthusiastic enough to review will want to get their hands on the product earliest."


that's probably true, but I also have the feeling that lots of people do a "review" of the film after simply watching the previews on tv or youtube or whatever.

explorador




msg:4597404
 2:58 pm on Jul 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think the point of the article was the conclusion that contrary to common perception, the sources of the fake reviews came from actual customers, not from competitors.


many of the registered customers, actual customers, were writing negative reviews online for products they had never purchased

The way that's written leaves space for something, it's purely technical:
  • You can be a registered user/customer on a site
  • The company could see that you NEVER bought the product you complain about
  • That could mean you didn't buy that product
  • That could ALSO mean you didn't buy that product THERE


I've seen people who are mad, feel insulted or ripped off and take any chance they see to talk in all fairness: bad about the product they bought (and yes, also TOO MAD about the product, more like an emotional reaction), I mean they want to spread the word everywhere they can.

graeme_p




msg:4597414
 3:26 pm on Jul 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

Its low enough to be tolerable, especially when you take into account exploradors and Mike_Feury's points.

@RhinoFish, celebrities are also paid to make endorsements, and everyone knows that. They are not really staking their reputation on it.

diberry




msg:4597418
 3:37 pm on Jul 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

Amazon allows users to rate the helpfulness of individual reviews. They also note whether the reviewer is a verified buyer of that item or not. And I STILL find reviews on a popular item to be more overwhelming than useful.

Additional issues above and beyond outright lying include the fact that a lot of people who get a defective product leave a bad review instead of returning it. It's like they assume the defect is supposed to be a feature rather than a bug, and review it on that basis. That's not helpful. (And I'm not talking about items where dozens of reviewers got defective products - that's helpful to know, but the best of products are still going to have a dud or two go off the assembly line.)

lucy24




msg:4597428
 4:35 pm on Jul 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

And then there's the, er, ahem, Desire To Post aspect.

I once looked up a particular venue on a particular review site because it had received attention on never-mind-what TV show. Finding pages and pages of negative reviews I settled down ready to be entertained ... but on closer inspection it turned out none of the reviewers had ever been near the venue, even though that was what the site was supposed to be for. It was people who had seen the TV show and couldn't wait to regurgitate what it had said.

Sigh.

Some e-book reviews are inexplicable. Look, people, it's an eight-page cheapo that cost one cent in 1872. What did you expect?

JS_Harris




msg:4597433
 4:48 pm on Jul 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Google wants glass and social signals to take over from semi-anonymous reviews.

Any content written by an anonymous source or written on a site that allows anyone to post without strict fact checking is losing its value in Google's eyes, has been for a long while now.

If you don't grow authority you can't even grow a website these days.

creative craig




msg:4597446
 5:47 pm on Jul 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

You can't leave a rating on IMDB unless it has been released in theaters somewhere in the world

ReferralCandy




msg:4597607
 8:13 am on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks for sharing the link, the message put forward by the article is certainly counter-intuitive and something I have not considered.

However, even though fake & negative reviews only take up a very small percentage of all reviews according to the study, you would be surprised at how much more "weight" does a negative review have, compared to a positive one. For small businesses that do not have many reviews, a single negative review can be particularly damaging on their brands. This makes customer relationship management in small business all the more important.

As per what dpd1 mentioned, a quantitative study on the influence of negative reviews vs positive reviews would help to shed some light on this matter. Even then, various studies have already shown that negative reviews are 5x more "influential" than positive ones. <snip>

When one considers the impact of such fake, anonymous reviews, it then makes more sense to restrict the ability to review or comment to customers who actually tried the product.

[edited by: buckworks at 6:18 pm (utc) on Jul 30, 2013]
[edit reason] Snipped URL drop [/edit]

graeme_p




msg:4597628
 10:02 am on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

That is not what it says. Its says people are 5 times as likely to talk about negative experiences.

It means that, without fakes, the proportion of negative reviews will be five times the proportion of dissatisfied customers.

It does not mean people pay five times as much notice of a negative review.

diberry




msg:4597728
 5:14 pm on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Any content written by an anonymous source or written on a site that allows anyone to post without strict fact checking is losing its value in Google's eyes, has been for a long while now.


If that were true, Amazon would not be results 1-3 for every query ever. IMO, Amazon does everything I can think of to make their reviews useful, but I wouldn't call it "strict fact-checking" by a long shot. That would require thousands of staff to manually go through things and interview the commenters via email or something silly. Google, apparently, realizes this and has more realistic expectations than that.

glitterball




msg:4597924
 6:49 am on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

When it comes to Hotels, I find that tripadvisor has become totally useless in some parts of the world. Many hotels have either extremely negative reviews or extremely positive reviews. Often, when you delve a little deeper into those reviewers, patterns emerge and you are left questioning the motivation of the reviewer. When it comes to restaurants, the ratings are even more unreliable.

On the other hand, sites that incentivize buyers to come back and review products tend to be reliable (unless the site's management start interfering).
IMHO, buyers need to be verified in order to have accurate user ratings.

dpd1




msg:4597951
 8:27 am on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

Probably the biggest problem is that most of the people who have time to do reviews, are often going to be a lot more fussy, simply because they have nothing else going on. By far my biggest PITA customers are retired people. Never fails... They are always the ones that freak out over the most trivial stuff. Meanwhile, most other people are too busy working and raising their kids to over analyze everything. I try to do reviews when something is good, but I just don't have the time to do many.

I was looking at Yelp ISP reviews the other day... Wow, good luck with that one. Either ISPs are the worst businesses in the world, or people are really hard to please. To look at those reviews, it would appear that all ISPs are completely worthless.

diberry




msg:4598096
 3:52 pm on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

A couple of years ago, a new local restaurant opened. My Yelp review was that the food was very good, the service had a few bugs, but it looked very promising.

About 5-6 other reviewers complained of getting food poisoning there on multiple occasions. The strangest thing was, they all saw fit to go into graphic detail about their symptoms, which was disgusting reading. It was very strange and not credible to me (I've had several bouts of food poisoning; these did not ring true in so many ways.) But others may have believed them.

I assumed these reviews came from a competitor, but in hindsight that doesn't make a lot of sense - all the nearby restaurants are usually full, so this one couldn't have been stealing that much business from anybody. You've got to wonder what kind of malcontent would do this. Maybe one of those overly entitled people who think because the manager didn't lick their boots he deserves this kind of aggression?

The place closed down within a couple of months. A friend of mine had warned the manager about those reviews, but he didn't take them seriously. I do think they contributed.

George




msg:4599412
 7:48 am on Aug 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

More important than why the do it, is how to deal with them.

As a small business owner, I find my reply to a bad review is the best tool I have. Often we can defuse the situation, particularly if the customer is being overtly aggressive, and has clearly not been in touch with us.

If its our fault or the couriers fault, I apologise and ask them to get in touch directly, so we can sort it out.

I learned it from a local pub:
[tripadvisor.com...]

I thought this was a corker.

If the link is out of place, sorry, its the okeover Arms ashbourne, tripadvisor "click on "Terrible," and Ridiculous Rules.

diberry




msg:4599538
 5:43 pm on Aug 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

As a small business owner, I find my reply to a bad review is the best tool I have. Often we can defuse the situation, particularly if the customer is being overtly aggressive, and has clearly not been in touch with us.


I can confirm that as a potential customer, I take the business' replies very seriously. If they make a reasonable attempt to deal with the complaint, that impresses me. And if the reviewer doesn't respond or cooperate with their reasonable attempt to fix things, I dismiss the review.

Essex_boy




msg:4601622
 8:53 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have a customer who will pick Fly poo out of pepper, he just complains constantly - about anything and I mean anything.

Oddly he never returns any product either so I just humour him.

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